Learning Together: Practice-Centred Professional Development to Enhance Mathematics Instruction

June 2016

Source: Mathematics Techer Education and Development, Vol. 18.1, 2016
(Reviewed by the Portal Team)

This study focused on how elementary teachers described their professional growth after being involved in lesson study in a professional learning community with other teachers and university professors. The study also examined how they described the impact the program had on their teaching of mathematics.

The participants were 16 elementary teachers who participated in a two-year professional development project that was a partnership between a rural school district and a university in the southern United States. They were involved in a two-year grant focused on professional development using lesson study processes to increase their understanding of mathematics content and effective mathematics pedagogy.

Data were collected through interviews of selected teachers focused on the lesson study process, teacher journal reflections, and recordings of individual teacher discussions of video taped segments of their teaching.

The findings reveal that the teachers were unified in describing how the professional learning communities (PLC) supported their professional development in changing their instructional approach from superficial rote learning to more in depth mathematical understanding.
The results indicated that the participants valued the collaboration within the community of learners. The sharing of ideas, planning lessons together, and reflecting on teaching and student learning in a supportive environment appears to have been critical to teacher growth.

Furthermore, the authors found that the teachers appreciated the time and support that was provided to engage with other educators involved in the project, both in their school district and at the university level. However, the teachers indicated the realities of their job did not provide the time and supportive structure needed to deeply examine teaching and student learning as we had in the project.
The authors argue that the challenge for teachers is to know how to listen to students and use the information gained to increase students’ mathematical understanding.
The authors conclude that the findings indicate that while involvement in professional development to deepen teachers’ understanding of mathematics and their knowledge of how to teach mathematics is important, participation in the continuous processes of a professional learning community for more than two years may be needed in order to change instructional practice. 

Updated: Feb. 18, 2018